You only need to spend a few minutes on Instagram to discover that the nail art trend is still going strong. If you thought that desert nails, wet look nails, aurora nails, or any other colorful, creative mani styles were a flash in the pan, it would appear that your prediction was very, very wrong. 

The only problem with nail art is that it can get pricey. If you regularly have a professional technician work their magic on your hands, you’ll probably have to increase your budget if you want to level up to more advanced designs. 

But nail art doesn’t have to be a spendy habit. Even mani beginners can learn to master a few basic designs, including checkered nails. Keep reading to learn more about how to create this classic look on your own. 

How to Create Checkered Nails

Nails with a checker patter n on them and each nail is a different color tone. So the thumb is two shades of yellow and the pointer is two shades of purple and so on.
Source: InstagramThis mani is multicolored, but you can also make the checkerboard on each of your nails the same. (Via @foreverbeauty.nails)

Checkerboard nail art is exactly what you’re imagining: tiny checkerboards on each nail. You can make checkerboard nails in different colors and with squares of different sizes. You’ll need to have a steadier hand for smaller squares, though, so you might want to start with a larger pattern and get some practice before scaling down.

Regardless of the details you choose, it only takes a few simple steps to make this mani happen. Ready to learn how to checkerboard nails like the pros? Of course you are! 

Step 1: Choose Your Colors

Nails in a checkered pattern. One hand is two tone pink and the other is two tone green.
Source: Instagram Caption: One of the best things about a checkerboard manicure is that it works with any color palette. (Via @nailedbyhayden)

First, decide which colors you’d like to use. The sky really is the limit here; choose your two favorite colors or coordinate your palette with the season or an upcoming holiday. 

One key consideration is the contrast between the colors you select. If you go with two similar shades, the finished product won’t be as striking. Your best bet for a checkerboard nail design is one darker color and one lighter color. White also pairs well with just about anything.

Step 2: Prep Your Nails

View from above of filing your nails.
Clean, trim, and file your nails before going any further.

You’ll get the best results from your DIY manicure if you take the time to prepare your nails first. Make sure your nails are clean, clip any hangnails, and get your nails to your preferred shape with a nail clipper and/or file.

Step 3: Apply a Base Coat

From above, hand painting nails with clear base coat.
Set yourself up for nail art success with a clear base coat. 

A clear base coat will give you a protective layer between your nail and the pigment in the colored polish you put on next. Applying a base coat is especially important when using nail polish with darker or more intense pigment. You don’t want your nails to be dyed permanently!

A base coat will also provide a smoother surface for your nail art and extend the life of your design. 

Practice Nail Art 101

The Nail Trail: The Beginner’s Guide to Nail Art 

Step 4: Paint the Left Side of Your Nails

Using one of the colors you’ve selected for your checkerboard, paint the left side of each nail with a standard straight nail polish brush. 

Step 5: Paint the Right Side of Your Nails

Using the same technique, paint the right side of each nail with the other checkerboard color you’ve selected.

With both sides of every nail painted in contrasting colors, take some time to let them dry. Resist the temptation to start on the next step while your nails are still a little sticky. It’s really not worth it to rush the process.

Step 6: Create Squares

Hands with painted checker nails. One hand is yellow and pink checkered nails and the other is two tone pink checkered.
Source: instagram Now, the checkerboard pattern will really come together! (Via @_nailsby.b)

Use the nail polish color from Step 5 to paint a square on the upper-left-hand corner of each nail, over the color from Step 4. 

After the first round of squares dries, do the reverse. Use the shade from Step 4 to paint a square on the upper-right-hand corner of each nail, over the color from Step 5. That’s all it takes to create a checkerboard effect! 

Step 7: Apply a Top Coat

Wait until your squares are dry, then seal your manicure with a top coat. Like a clear base coat, a clear top coat will protect your manicure efforts and help them last longer. It will also make your nails shinier!

Check, Check, Checkerboard

Now that you know the basics of a DIY checkered mani, play with different variations of it over time. You might choose to paint all of your nails as checkerboards or use this technique for one or two accent nails. Either way, when you look down at your hands, this nail art is bound to make you smile. 

DIY Your Nail Art

Nail Art: Colorful, Creative Designs to Paint and Share

Written By

Alli Hoff Kosik

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